The executive director of Evanston Cradle to Career says he is already talking with officials and school board members at District 202, after the Board of Education’s decision earlier this week to eliminate its annual $50,000 Cradle grant from the 2024 budget.
Blake Noel, who only became director this past spring, tells Evanston Now that he’ll discuss “coming back together to reaffirm our partnership, and not just the financial part.”
District 202 (Evanston Township High School) cut the funding after board member Gretchen Livingston questioned whether Cradle has actually accomplished anything with the money.
“I don’t disagree with their goals” of targeting poverty, inequality, and school/career readiness, Livingston said, but added, “over the past year or two, I have no idea” if it’s even possible to see if those goals are being accomplished.
Livingston noted that $50,000 a year to Cradle for the past dozen years is “a lot of money,” and D202 could probably do more with the dollars on its own.
Noel concedes that Cradle has “had some communications challenges which have festered and grown into a lot of misunderstanding.”
The communications problem, he said was “pretty obvious,” and visible in the agency’s website which looks “dated and beat up.”
Noel says what’s going now on is a “natural transition,” with Cradle having a new director and new strategic plan.
He calls the budget cut an “opportunity” to “state our case” by “sharing our wins and our strategies.”
Noel says that unlike some other social service agencies, where you can quantify, say, “how many meals were served,” Cradle deals with long-term collaboration with its 40 partner agencies.
He says that programs such as the Mayor’s Employer Advisory Council and the Coalition to End Homelessness actually grew out of Cradle initiatives.
The director says that ETHS is the “jewel of the community.”
He says while no nonprofit agency wants to lose funding, he’s taking the longer view on perhaps getting the money put back, and also re-establishing good relations with D202.
“It’s not alarm bells,” Noel notes, but the funding cut is a way to say “let’s have the conversation” on what can happen next.